COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four high school seniors from four states comprise the first wave of recruits for Ohio State first-year baseball coach Greg Beals and his staff. The four seniors all signed National Letters of Intent Wednesday to further their academic careers and play baseball at The Ohio State University.

“Ohio State is a great place to recruit to,” Beals said when announcing the first of a two-part recruiting class that will include a second release of NLI signings in about a week. “We have a terrific facility in Bill Davis Stadium. The baseball program has a rich tradition of Big Ten championships, NCAA, and College World Series appearances. The University and surrounding community has so much to offer, and I am just very excited to announce our first class of future Ohio State Buckeyes.”

The end result of about five months worth of recruiting since Beals accepted the Ohio State position are two new pitchers, a catcher and a third baseman who can also play catcher. The four new Buckeyes include:

  • Aaron Gretz, a catcher from Apple Valley, Minn., and Apple Valley High School;
  • Eric Haase, a combo 3B/C from Westland, Mich., and Divine Child High School;
  • Matt Panek, a LHP from Cary, Ill., and Cary-Grove High School; and
  • Matt Wisler, a RHP from Bryan, Ohio, and Bryan High School.

“The entire coaching staff, including assistants Chris Holick, Mike Stafford and Josh Newman, really dug in and worked hard to put this group together to help move us forward,” Beals said. “The four recruits will make an immediate impact to our program.  Most importantly these young men exemplify the type of student-athlete we are looking for to represent ‘Buckeye Nation’ on and off the field.” 

Regarding Beals’ comment about Ohio State being a great place to recruit to, the new student-athletes had to be impressed with the benefits of an Ohio State education and with attending a school that has 175 undergraduate majors, hundreds of specializations within the majors and hundreds of opportunities to double major or minor.

“I knew of Ohio State’s reputation of excellence on and off the field, but after visiting the campus, it surpassed anything I could have imagined,” Panek said.

All four, and their parents, will soon be impressed with the university’s special emphasis on each student’s first year. It’s called the First Year Experience, and it is designed to help incoming students get comfortable on campus, connect with the university and start thinking of OSU as home.

“I was really impressed by the campus and the number of resources and opportunities that are going to be available to me this fall,” Haase said.

And no doubt the new Buckeyes were intrigued and eager to play for a coaching staff that has proven to be not only tremendous developers of talent, but also passionate about developing student-athletes in all aspects of their lives. Consider what Beals and Stafford accomplished in their time at Ball State:

  • They watched 21 of their players get selected in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft, including four players in 2006 and three players in both 2009 and 2010.
  • This year, in fact, their 2010 first-team All-American utility player – Kolbrin Vitek, from Bryan, Ohio – was selected with the 20th pick of the first round by the Boston Red Sox.
  • Also this year, third-year sophomore pitcher Perci Garner, from Dover, Ohio, was chosen in the second round by the Philadelphia Phillies and a third Cardinal – Zach Dygert – was selected in the 22nd round by the Houston Astros.

“It is a great honor to be a Buckeye,” Gretz said. “I am excited to be in the first recruiting class of Coach Beals.”

Baseball is the oldest sport in Ohio State’s comprehensive, 36-sport athletics program considered by many to be the finest in the nation. The fact that Ohio State is one of only 23 teams to have won a College World Series title, coupled with a rich tradition that includes 19 NCAA tournament appearances and 23 Big Ten championships (15 regular season and eight tournament), also factored into the recruit’s decision-making.

“I am honored to join the tradition that is The Ohio State University,” Wisler said. “I am excited to be a part of a program that can compete on a national level and win championships.”

Let’s meet the new Buckeyes.

Aaron Gretz – Catcher / 6-1, 195 / Apple Valley, Minn. (Apple Valley)

Gretz will be a four-year starter in both baseball and hockey for Apple Valley High School, located just outside of the Twin Cities. He was honorable mention all-state in baseball as a junior and was also named all-Lake Conference and his team’s MVP. Gretz has hit nine home runs and 38 doubles leading into his senior season and has a career batting average of .389. He hit .485 with 12 doubles and 45 runs batted this summer for the Ohio Warhawks. He is the son of Brian and Suzanne Gretz. His older brother, Nick, played six years in the Colorado Rockies organization.

Coach Greg Beals: “Aaron is a left-handed hitting catcher who really impressed me this summer in every aspect of his game.  Defensively, he can catch very well with above average arm strength. Aaron also has a great feel for hitting.”

Eric Haase – 3B/Catcher / 5-11, 185 / Westland, Mich. (Divine Child)

Haase, who has played on two state championship teams so far at Dearborn’s Divine Child High School, was a Division II first-team all-state pick by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association as a junior. He was also named first-team All-Catholic High School League. He hit .434 with seven home runs, 15 doubles, 47 runs batted in and 43 runs scored in 2010. On track to break numerous school batting records with 19 career home runs and 99 RBI, Haase was also 5-2 with a 2.10 ERA on the mound for coach Tony DeMare’s powerhouse team. He is the son of Don and Lori Haase.  

Coach Greg Beals:  “Eric can flat-out hit. He is one of the best hitters we evaluated all summer.  He has the ability to play defensively both behind the plate and in the infield.  This versatility gives us more options to get his bat into the line-up.”

Matt Panek – LHP / 6-5, 180 / Cary, Ill. (Cary-Grove)

Panek was first-team all-Fox Valley Conference as a junior and also received all-area accolades for Cary-Grove High School, a Class 4A school located just northeast of Chicago. Panek posted a 6-2 record on the mound in 2010 with a 3.50 earned run average and 41 strikeouts in 54.0 innings pitched. At the plate he hit .452 and slugged .810. Cary-Grove, coached by Don Sutherland, reached its first Illinois state championship in 2009 and last year it won a regional championship. Panek is the son of Karen and Jeff Panek.

Coach Greg Beals: “Matt has an upside that we are very excited about.  He is a tall lefty with clean arm action and a feel for spinning his curve ball.  Matt will bring much needed depth to the left-handed side of our pitching staff.”

Matt Wisler – RHP / 6-3, 180 / Bryan, Ohio (Bryan)

Wisler was a second-team Division II all-state selection in 2010 by the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association. He has also been named first-team all-Northwest Ohio Athletic Conference and first-team all-district the past two years. Coached by Joe Roebuck, Wisler is comng off a 2010 campaign where he went 6-1 on the mound with a 0.17 earned run average. He struck out 71 in 42 innings while walking just seven and allowing only 13 hits. He is the son of Sue and Bob Wisler.

Coach Greg Beals: “Matt is an extremely talented young man with a great future ahead of him.  He has an uncanny ability for his age to command all four of his pitches. He is considered by many, including our staff, to be the best pitching prospect in Ohio for 2011.  Matt is a dedicated student-athlete who figures to compete for a rotation spot immediately.”